Now I feel quite sane.
So the news yesterday wasn't good. Apparently my Mum does have cancer - the first biopsy got only scar tissue so that's why it didn't show up any cancer cells. The type of cancer she has is pancreatic adenocarcinoma. I've looked it up. While the surgeon wasn't keen to talk about prognosis, referring her to an oncologist who's an expert instead, let's just say that I hope Mum doesn't read the internet.
I also know this is a vain hope. She's a smart lady, and knowledge is power. Also, some people do survive it. And since she's got no symptoms apart from those caused by the blockage in the pancreatic duct caused by the tumour (ie no jaundice, no pain, no evidence of it having spread - just indigestion), I figure she has as good a chance as anyone, maybe better. Also, she's healthy and fit so I'd say they'll be ok with her having chemotherapy.
However. I know I can't help her physically. I don't know how to help her emotionally. She doesn't want to stick her head in the sand and pretend it's not happening. She doesn't want to avoid talking about it. I'm ok with that. I can do that. But I'm a bit at a loss about what else I can do. Mum's emotional wellbeing is really important to any chance she might have of getting through this, but how do you look after the emotional wellbeing of someone who's just found out she has 0.5% chance of living beyond 5 years, and most likely won't last a year?
I don't know.
I do know there must be people out there who have experience of this, who can maybe give advice.
Another thing I need advice on, is dealing with other people's reactions. A standard question from most folks I know when I see them these days is "How's your Mum?" I'm not a person who can hide things easily (really Tats? I didn't realise your life was an open book *cough*), or lie. So the first one this morning asked me, and I told her. And she tried to hug me, and then proceeded to want to discuss it. Her husband has just recovered from cancer in which he was given a 20% chance of survival, there are support groups, it's going to be tough on you, if you need a shoulder, or want to talk blah blah blah.
Um. I'm not talking. You are. And it's really not the kind of thing that's going to help right now.
I just sat there and looked at her kind of helplessly (dodged the hug) and tried to figure out how to make it clear to people that while I will be honest and up front about what's going on with Mum, that isn't an invitation to them to discuss it with me at length, share their cancer stories, and particularly not to rush over and act as though we have an intimate relationship.
Does that make me a hypocrite? I just asked whoever reads this blog, both known and unknown, for advice on dealing with my Mum's illness. But I don't want to discuss Mum's illness with someone who has experience that I work with.
Mostly I don't want to get into lengthy discussions about it with colleagues. We got the diagnosis yesterday, and it's going to take a while to reconcile, and until then I don't want to be dragged in to 'intimate space' with them, where I become an object of pity and sympathy just because that's how you're supposed to respond to such things.
I have no idea how I'm supposed to respond either. I'm a pragmatist, and a fatalist, and apart from wanting to try and help Mum have as normal a life, and outlook, as possible, I don't feel all that different from the way I felt yesterday. It certainly hasn't given me a burning desire to have a closer intimate relationship with my work colleagues.
Two questions -
1) Am I being uncharitiable and possibly not allowing them to figure out how to deal with it by prattling at me - ie it's part of the process Tats - deal with it?
2) How do I politely make it clear that I don't want to discuss this with them at length, that I don't want sympathy and hugs, and that business as usual is what I want at work.
3) Why do I think what I want is more important than what they want anyway?
OK, I can't count. Sue me.
Meanwhile, pombagira sent me this: Shaun the Sheep. And it makes me happy. Happy like the sheep-and-sheepdogs tic tac toe game I was given the other day. I will be the old sheep lady with twitchy curtains, yes.